By John Curley
Following six albums as lead vocalist with her very successful band, The Cardigans, two albums with side project A Camp, and numerous guest appearances, Nina Persson has released her debut solo album. And it was worth the wait. Persson’s album, Animal Heart, is a must listen.
Featuring Persson’s smooth-as-silk vocals front and center at the top of the mix, Animal Heart is a tour de force that concentrates on relationships both good and bad. It’s a very personal album but also highly accessible. It’s not power-pop oriented, like a lot of The Cardigans’ best songs are. Animal Heart is a bit of a grower, and it might take more than one listen for the album to get under your skin. But when it does, it stays there.
Persson wrote the album with her husband Nathan Larson (her partner in the side project A Camp) and Eric D. Johnson of The Shins. (Joan Wasser collaborated on the track “Food For The Beast.”)
Kicking off with the title track, the album gets off to a rousing start. “Animal Heart,” the album’s first single, is a fantastic keyboard-and-bass-driven track that features Persson’s vocals prominently. It is a very visual song that paints a vivid picture of a relationship, of looking for a place where she and her partner can be happy.
All of the tracks on the album seem to be very well thought out. There isn’t one track on the album that can be considered filler. “Burning Bridges For Fuel” is a beautiful, evocative song that seems to float along. “Dreaming Of Houses” features Persson going over the end of a relationship and trying to make sense of where it went wrong. In “Clip Your Wings,” Persson tells her partner “You can go if you want to go” while also saying that she’s not looking to crush his ambition just that she wants more of a say in their future plans. On the terrific “Food For The Beast,” Persson mulls over an on-and-off relationship to a dance beat. “Forgot To Tell You” is an ethereal song about being unhappy in a relationship and deciding to leave. “Catch Me Crying” deals with being let down repeatedly and coming to the realization that your partner is not suited for you. “Silver” is an upbeat song about picking your partner up when they are down.
The album concludes with the stunning track “This Is Heavy Metal,” a spare and beautiful song that features piano and Persson’s perfect vocals.
With Animal Heart, Persson has managed to carve out an identity that is distinct and different from her persona as the lead vocalist of The Cardigans. The album overall is about a journey of self-discovery. And one of the things that the listener discovers along the way is that Persson is a massive talent as a solo act. I look forward to hearing her future solo endeavors.
Animal Heart is released on the Brooklyn-based label The End Records.